One of the best Christmas parties I ever attended was in the middle of January. I was living in North Carolina at the time and an ice storm knocked out power for nearly a week. It hit about two days before the party was originally scheduled and there was no way to get it set back up before the holiday.
Rather than cancel it, the hosts decided to reschedule the party for January. It was a blast. It was exactly what we needed to offset the winter blues.
The run-up to Christmas can be hectic, even for people with the best of intentions. There are parties, shopping, church services and functions…not to mention potentially challenging weather. And then January comes and all we have left is the potentially challenging weather, long cold nights and not much else. And that makes us SAD. Not sad, but SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Frankly, I think whoever came up with that name may have gotten a bit too cute. I mean, can anyone take you serious when you say “I’m sad”?
According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of Fall and Winter SAD include:
- Tiredness or low energy
- Problems getting along with other people
- Hypersensitivity to rejection
- Heavy, “leaden” feeling in the arms or legs
- Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
- Weight gain
Ummm, yeah. That pretty much covers everyone I work with right now. For the record, I work from home. Alone.
In severe cases, you can talk to your doctor. SAD is basically clinical depression brought on by the change of seasons. Don’t believe me? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose mental conditions, considers it a real thing. The DSM 5 is also used by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment. If the insurance companies are willing to pay for it, there must be something there.
An interesting side note, while women are more likely to be diagnosed with SAD (this probably has more to do with the man’s willingness to go to the doctor, but that is a different discussion) but men tend to have more severe symptoms. Again, probably connected to a man’s willingness to go to the doctor.
There are some things you can do to improve your mood at home (according to the Maya clinic):
- Make your environment sunnier and brighter. Open blinds, trim tree branches that block sunlight or add skylights to your home. Sit closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
- Get outside. Take a long walk, eat lunch at a nearby park, or simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on cold or cloudy days, outdoor light can help — especially if you spend some time outside within two hours of getting up in the morning.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.